Tipping the scales: Continuing Education obesity update

Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States with approximately 37 percent of adults and 19 percent children classified as obese. Numerous significant health risks are associated with obesity including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Annual health care costs associated with obesity are estimated to reach $190 billion per year.

In an effort to educate health care providers on this growing crisis, an interprofessional group of practitioners from Campbell University sponsored a six-hour continuing professional education program on April 21 at  Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, North Carolina. The program, supported by funds from the College of Pharmacy & Health Science’s Community Pharmacy Institute (CPI), was led off by Dr. Nick Pennings, director of the Campbell Health Center and chair of Family Medicine at the School of Osteopathic Medicine.  

Pennings, board certified in family medicine and obesity medicine, serves on the board of trustees for the Obesity Medicine Association. Pennings’ discussion, “Peeling the Onion: Uncovering the layers of complexity in obesity treatment and log-term treatment obesity,”  was well received by the 65 pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in attendance. Karen Gleason, registered dietitian and owner of At Home Nutrition, LLC, answered questions regarding overcoming barriers to healthy nutrition, how to motivate others to eat healthy and how fad diets can sabotage weight loss efforts.  After lunch, Dr. Beth Mills, ambulatory care pharmacist at Benson Area Medical Center and clinical assistant professor of Pharmacy Practice at the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, addressed the twin epidemic of obesity and diabetes.  A bad recipe that many in the medical community have begun to term, “diabesity.”

Mills shared her daily experiences working with patients afflicted with this deadly combination of disease states. She covered topics such as: type two diabetes as consequence of obesity, co-morbid management of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as well as, how to develop a treatment plan for a patient with Type 2 diabetes who is also obese. According to Mills, “Ninety percent of patients with Type 2 diabetes are either overweight or obese. Co-morbid management of these two chronic conditions is challenging and requires a treatment plan that encompasses carefully selected medications that promote weight loss and improve glycemic control. What makes treatment of these diseases even more difficult is how reliant we are on our patients’ ability to execute their self-management plan, which includes adherence to medications, healthier dietary habits, increased physical activity and behavior change promoting weight loss.”

Rounding out the program for the Campbell team was Andy Bowman, director of Continuing Professional Education and clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice at the College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Bowman, who teaches in the areas of pharmacy patient counseling and behavior change, discussed the process by which a patient changes their eating habits, the health literacy challenges that are facing many obesity patients, as well as, the use of motivational interviewing to counsel patients on weight loss.  

“Unlike some disease states, obesity requires a major change in behavior by the patient.  We as healthcare providers must use our communication skills to guide our patients on the journey to healthier eating and living. I would liken the change process to smoking cessation. Unhealthy eating is habit driven, emotionally driven and impacted by a myriad of challenging personal factors.” said Bowman.  

This marks the third year in a row that the CPI has offered a spring continuing education program at Pinehurst Resort, a trend that Katie Trotta, chair of the CPI and clinical assistant professor of community pharmacy practice, hopes to continue.

“The goal of CPI’s spring CE symposium is to present timely information from clinicians with a variety of backgrounds so pharmacists in attendance can apply what they learn and make positive changes for their patients,” she said. “So far, we have been successful in doing so and we plan to continue this event in the upcoming years.”